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BLACKOUT AS PHCN WORKERS BEGIN NATIONWIDE STRIKE

By NBF News

After issuing threats, and ultimatum to down tools if the Federal Government failed to meet their demands on improved welfare package, electricity workers across the country, yesterday plunged the nation into darkness, as they embarked on a nationwide strike.

The industrial action was in compliance with a circular from the national secretariat of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) dated 23 August and signed by its National Secretary, Mr. Joe Ajaero.

The circular had directed the workers to embark on indefinite strike if their monetization arrears were not paid to tem by Wednesday 25, August.

The circular stated that the Federal Government and the authorities of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) had refused to implement the agreement entered into with the workers.

In Abuja, the Federal Capital, the workers stayed away from duties and the city had been thrown into darkness as all the transmission stations within and around Abuja were shut down, thereby cutting off power supply.

As early as 7.30a.m., workers at the PHCN headquarters located along Zambezi Street, Maitama, Abuja blocked all the entrance to the premises. The management staff were also turned back as the striking workers refused to allow anyone into the complex.

Efforts to get the PHCN spokesperson, Mrs. E. Igbo failed as she refused to respond to calls to her telephone.

But the National Organizing Secretary of the union, Comrade Temple Timepreyeiwerima told Daily Sun that the action had been very successful as the head office had since been deserted and several other transmission stations shut down. 'We don't know why government has refused to pay us as agreed. We were only paid N5 billion in two days, since then nobody has given us anything. 'They were to pay us the N58 billion in 30 days but since then, no reason was given to us why they stopped,' he told Daily Sun in an interview on phone.

FG had earlier in month announced the release of over N58 billion to be paid to the striking workers on daily basis for 30 days but the workers alleged that government had since reneged on its earlier agreement with the union members.

Also in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, PHCN National Distribution Centre switched off the main distribution point in protest of their unpaid arrears of monetization allowance, casualisation of labour and poor salary.

Comprising members of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and Senior Staff Association of Electricity (SSAE), the aggrieved workers stormed the Powerline area of Osogbo and shut down the power distribution system.

The Osogbo National Control Centre of the PHCN is charged with the distribution of electricity generated from Kainji and Shiroro Dams to the South-West zone of the country. Efforts to get executives of the two unions to speak on the fresh face off with the Federal Government were rebuffed as the protesting workers directed all enquiries to the national secretariat of the unions. The impact of the strike was immediately felt in Osogbo and its environs as government offices, private companies and business premises resorted to generating sets to power their activities.

Economic activities were also paralysed in Edo State, as the state chapter of NUEE joined their colleagues in the strike. According to the Benin Zonal Secretary, Mr. Joseph Ndem, 'the strike would not be called off until the federal government resolves all outstanding issues with the union'.

However, as at press time, the Minister of State for Power, Architect Nuhu Wyas was said to be holding a meeting with the union officials in Lagos with a view to resolving the issues in contention. Following the strike yesterday, several business outfits that depends on electricity supply from PHCN, closed down shop in Benin , the Edo State capital, just as residents resorted to the use of generating sets.